Gyeongju Top 7

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‘Beautiful Gyeongju’

 

There are many places in Korea that sound similar to ‘Gyeongju’ but you do not want to get confused and miss the opportunity to visit this gem of a place. Gyeongju is extremely easy to get to from pretty much anywhere in Korea by using the wonderful bus and train networks (www.kobus.co.kr ; http://www.letskorail.com) . This small city was also the capital of Korea during the Unified Silla Dynasty before it moved to (at the time) the more centrally-located Seoul.

Being steeped in history as it is, I knew there was a lot to see in Gyeongju before I went. I only had four days and I was concerned that I may not be able to fit it all in but with a lot of coffee and geeky enthusiasm I walked non-stop for this time and can now tell you all about it.

Here are my top 7 things to see and do in Gyeongju (I couldn’t cut it down to 5, sorry).

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Gyejoksan and a lack of Ajummas

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Korea is a land of Ajummas. Middle-oldaged women, are often called ‘Ajummas’ – a term for an Aunty. They are an integral part of walking here; whether you are going for a stroll in your local park or climb a mountain, Ajummas with their fluorescent, clashing, headache-inducing outfits, bells, radios, hiking sticks and fondness for spitting will always be there. I have grown so used to their presence that it was a surprise to me to climb a mountain in Daejeon where there were so few (or indeed, many other people at all).

Welcome to winter climbing.

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2015

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I haven’t ended the year with a retrospective list since the days of MySpace where I posted what young-me considered to be a ‘quirky’ list of stuff that I did; I think it included the words ‘toast’ and ‘kites’.  In comparison to 2006, this year has been a bit more, well, everything.  But on balance, there has been a distinct lack of kite flying in 2015.

Here are my highlights of the year that changed so much.

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Seoul Lantern Festival

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Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon Stream is the setting for the capital’s yearly Lantern Festival. It seems that many cities in Korea have lantern festivals (for any reason at all really) but Seoul’s was the first one that I read about and it was high up on my list of things to see in Korea.

Cheonggyecheon stream was covered by the city above for many years but was reclaimed and reopened in 2005. It is beautiful all year round but at Lantern Festival, it is transformed into a magical place.

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Protests in Seoul.

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I woke up, like many, to the news of the Paris attacks. This shook me immensely and thoughts of Paris, a city that I have loved for many years, coloured my thoughts during the day.

We were in Seoul for the annual lantern festival. In the hours before, we decided to wander around. We had been warned of the protests by the hotel manager but headed to the city centre area regardless, it was a place that we had not really explored before now and we thought that the protests would be like all the others that we had seen in Korea; quiet and unassuming.

However, we were met by an extraordinary amount of police officers. Thousands lined the streets. All dressed in riot gear, they cut a formidable sight as we walked towards the tourist downtown area.

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Daejeon O World

006Cuteness is the theme at O-World.

Being new to Daejeon, O-World was high on my list of places to visit. O-World is made up of three places- a theme park, a zoo and flower land. Before going, I trawled the internet to find out what I could expect. Among these posts I found a few relating to the zoo that mentioned small cages, unhappy animals and overall not-too-great conditions and I felt a bit unsure as to whether or not it would be a good idea to visit.

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